Have stress less

As we start back to our work routines after the joyful holidays it is very easy to find ourselves in challenging situations.

Here are a few tips for helping avoid stress or alleviate stressful situations.

  1. Smell: there’s some benefit to keeping essential oils handy whenever you have feelings of stress or overwhelm. Calming scents like lavender, vanilla, rose oil, and frankincense (my favorite) all have the potential ability to lower blood pressure and bring down levels of cortisol. This article walks through the benefits of frankincense. If you want to buy some or learn more – let me know. I’ll share where I buy mine and why.
  2. Taste: there is a true and important connection between the brain and the gut. Try tea – chamomile and green tea are perceived to help reduce anxiety. Some people with anxiety have a folate deficiency. You can increase that by eating asparagus. Avocados have stress relieving B vitamins and can perhaps increase levels of serotonin to help you relax. Antioxidants can help reduce or prevent anxiety. Blueberries can help you with that! Perhaps eating turkey or other foods with tryptophan would also potentially help lower anxiety through the amino acids. Here’s a recipe for a healthy potentially stress reducing chocolate chip cookie!
  3. Touch: this is the first of the 5 senses that develops. Hug someone you love! Oxytocin increases, cortisol (stress) decreases. Also some research suggests that if you’re having a stressful conversation, sitting up straight with your feet flat on the floor may help if the mood is negative.
  4. Hear: I love to listen to ocean sounds when I need to relax. Research shows that music has a direct effect on reducing anxiety and pain. Here’s an article and a song that neuroscientists say can really help. Hear what you think!
  5. Breathe: abdominal breathing helps relax the nervous system. When you breathe deeply your brain gets a signal to calm down and relax. Here’s an easy exercise you can try – once you take a breath in- now breathe out slowly until every drop of your breath is released. While you’re doing this, notice anywhere in your body where you’re holding tension. For me I hold tension in my shoulders. When you are consciously aware of this you can direct the tension to release. Here’s a guided mediation that you may enjoy (it’s a bit over 10 minutes but investing the time in yourself is worth it)

We all know that exercise, healthy eating, getting enough sleep, and focusing on self care all will aid us in times of imbalance or stress.

Maybe you have additional tips! Feel free to share!

Burned out? 5 tips to keep your light lit and shine on the good tidings of great joy.

burned out lights

It sure is easy during the approach of the holidays to start to feel a bit fizzled and frazzled.

I have a tree that is supposed to stay lit even when some of the lights die – but for some reason this year, the top and the middle of my tree are completely unlit and I can’t find the bulbs that are causing the problem…

The directions on the tree say that if one bulb goes out, the others will stay lit…but either that is false, OR I have dozens of lights that just pooped out.

What makes the lights go out? A loose bulb, broken socket or frayed wire is sometimes all it takes for the strand to malfunction. Sometimes something impacts the bulb – which causes the light to go out. Sometimes an entire fuse blows when there is an overcurrent to the power source, which causes more than just one light to go out. Sometimes a light goes out because there are too many other lights that are burned out.

This started making me think about my own energy and staying fully lit during this time of year – which is advertised as a season of peace, joy, fun, and silent nights – but yet it also is often filled with stress of finishing up year end goals, meeting deadlines that may be unrealistic, dealing with staff that waited until the very last minute to take an entire load of vacation days off, not enough time to go to the bathroom let alone wrap gifts, the stress of final doctor visits before new deductibles kick in, paying off bills and making sure that all of the receipts are turned in for flex, and wow – the list can go on and on.

Staying lit takes a lot of energy.

I don’t want to get to the end of the year and look back and just say “I was busy”. Crazy busy. I want to reflect and with confidence say I was productive, added value, had quality in my life, joy, and gave. I want my light to matter.

What about you? Are your lights dimming? Close to being blown? Are there other lights on the same strand that are already blown out? Keep reading, perhaps these tips will help you as much as they have helped me.

TIP ONE

Busy or productive?

There is way more to life than just being busy. Slowly my light has been dimming. I found myself in a trap in 2018 of letting others hold my calendar hostage, spending inordinate amount of times in meetings with no time left to take action, and delivering above and beyond superior projects and programs, while feeling like others think it still wasn’t good enough – or enough.

Each light on the tree has a lifespan – it’s job is to shine brightly until it is dimmed and cannot light any more.

As I prepare for a much needed break – it is my hope to focus on doing things I love, with people I love. This focus makes my light shine brighter.

The joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives, and everything to do with the focus of our lives. – Russel M. Nelson

If you finding yourself sweating the small stuff, what is helping me is to just stop and breathe. Breathe in deeply and as Elsa so famously sings – “let it go.”

There is only so much you can do – and then there is no more you can do. A bucket can only hold so much before it spills over…

Bucket-Overflowing

Sometimes I read blogs or articles and think “WOW that author must have it all together.” We all are like the lights on the tree. We have a purpose, and a lifespan. My tips are not because I have it all together. These tips are for me because I do NOT have it all together most days – but try to find ways to shine a bit brighter. What if maybe other authors also at some point felt like they were getting dim and had to find a way to rise above?

I am being honest here. I got caught up in the stress I am feeling at work – and had to pause. I could choose to allow it to wear me down and burn me out – or I could find a way to rise above and look at the circumstances as opportunities. I needed these tips for myself. If they help you too, that is even better!

Breathe. Again.

Tip Two

Invest time in things that bring you and others joy

As I started thinking about my own “problems” – I was stopped in my tracks and something inside of me urged me to leave the Pity Party of One and express gratitude and slow down my thoughts. My light needs to shine bright. I have more to shine on, more to do. This life is bigger than myself. I am not ready to burn out yet.

Last month – my daughter gifted 500 kids in Kenya a pair of shoes – their own pair of shoes. Perhaps a pair they will only have for many years to come. She didn’t gift these to ‘get credit’ or have a light shine on herself. She did it to let a light of hope shine on others. We could all benefit in that lesson. I know I did.

kenya shoes

These kids won’t have to “worry about the stress” of no time to wrap all the many gifts that collect dust in our homes, or worry about the time it will take to cook a feast that will continue to make us all fatter. They won’t have to worry about how many kinds of drinks will be available – because perhaps they won’t have food, or even safe clean drinking water to drink – let alone any gifts under a tree.

My light still feels dim – because I often feel like time is chasing me down. Have I done all I could do in life? Could I have done more? Be more? Give more? Why do people in the world have to suffer? What can I do to take the focus off of me, and help make the life of someone else better?

Do I let my life consume me with “things” that do not bring joy and happiness? Do I focus more on my “To-Do” list than on my “To-Be” list?

Maybe the key to making that light shine brighter is to not only focus on making a difference in someone’s life – but to realize that the ‘someone’ sometimes has to start with the person inside yourself. You can’t give what you don’t have.

I needed time to replenish. Time to get back to where I could give more of me away. Time to let go of stagnant things holding me back from giving away more of my heart to make room for more joy.

If your light feels dim, remember this – if there is any sparkle left, the light isn’t dead, it can shine brightly again!

Can you put aside some of the stress, the hustle, the bustle?

Breathe. Again. 

Tip Three

Express Gratitude and Record Positive Events

What if you took time to really pause and think about your life? Are you who you want to be? Are you doing what you want to do? Are you growing? Are you investing your time with the people that matter most to you?

If not – start today. Let today be the day that your light shines a bit brighter.

What if you paused a bit more, loved a bit more, gave a bit more, rested a bit more, shared a bit more. Shined a bit more.

A few days ago I bought a journal called “On This Christmas”. It has been wonderful.

on this christmas journal

The book is designed to capture some of the most significant things about the holiday season – and none of it is about tasks, to-do’s, lists, work, stress.

Every page provides an escape into the most favorite things you love about this time of sharing, togetherness, joy, and celebration of something bigger than ourselves.

Breathe. Again. (It is becoming easier!)

Tip Four

Escape and do not be afraid.

Even as I write this my light feels a little bit brighter, my breathing a bit easier.

Sometimes you have to just set aside whatever is holding you back or down. Sometimes you have to walk away from something to walk toward something more important. Sometimes you have to let go of fear, so that you can make room inside for something way more healthy and better. Something bigger. Something more significant. You can’t have it if you don’t escape from where you are.

I am reminded that a very powerful force TWICE said, “Fear not.” And then said “I bring you good tidings of great joy that is for all mankind.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. This is the message to remember. Nothing else matters. This message sometimes gets lost or diluted during this time of year – and yet is the only thing that truly matters.

The first time the angel said this, a poor, single teenager found out she was pregnant. She had plenty to be stressed out about, and to be afraid about. Back then you could be stoned or killed for something like that…

The second time the angel said it, it was in a dark field. The shepherds were busy. They were watching flocks. Maybe they were tired. Maybe they were stressed out. Maybe they weren’t making enough money to make ends meet. Maybe they hated being shepherds. Maybe they were hungry. Maybe they wondered if they were doing and being all they could. They could have heard that message and done nothing. But they didn’t.

Fear not.

The shepherds immediately left the place where they heard this message and went to a place to see what this message about no fear, good news, great joy was all about. It wasn’t about bills, stress, unhappiness, discontent, it was about something life-shifting.

Tip Five

Just keep breathing – it will make the light keep shining.

It’s not easy to make yourself stop what you’re doing – especially when you’re extraordinarily “busy”.

We take for granted that our bodies will breathe “for us”. Right now – stop whatever you are doing! DO it! Consciously even stop reading this and take a deep breath!

There is so much research on this. Breathing has amazing restorative effects.

Mindfulness is not just trendy, it is necessary for us to keep shining, thriving, and for our own good.

Breathing – and focusing on the breathing is so invigorating and helpful. Do this whenever you are faced with something frustrating either at home or at work.

Breathing will help you relax your mind, will calm down your emotions and can help you re-calibrate quickly to focus on what’s truly important.

I have spent more than my out of pocket maximums this year seeing doctors. Guess what they all said? Nothing is wrong with you – except stress. THIS IS something wrong with me – and with many of you reading this.

Stress is known to cause physical and emotional damage. This happens frequently as people are busier than ever.

If you don’t take the time to figure out what is significant and what can wait, you won’t be able to escape from your day in small ways.

SO there you have it – 5 tips to try to keep your lights from burning out.

Are they simple? Yes.

Will it be easy? No.

These tiny shifts can have a big impact on your overall well-being and stress levels, may help you avoid getting sick or burned out, and can help you with however you may even be feeling right now, or may feel when the holiday season is in full swing.

Breathe. Shine bright. 

Merry Christmas and may you be the light that can help illuminate more peace on Earth and goodwill toward men.

Leading in times of uncertainty

It’s easy to sail a boat when the water is still. Leadership is tested when the conditions change and no longer “smooth sailing”.

Leaders are tested in times of uncertainty or crisis.

Leaders have an opportunity of navigating that ship, or sinking with the crew.

There are more than 5 ways to lead well – let’s explore these as a starting point:

Tip one: Don’t wait to test your leadership in the midst of crisis. Always be ready.

Years ago I worked for an airline and was a part of a crisis management team. The purpose of the team was to be prepared in the unlikely event of an emergency. We went through drills, scenarios, had media training, practiced safety techniques, and had recurrent training annually regardless if a crisis emerged or not. We understood the expectation, and were prepared for the worst by being trained to be the best.

Tip two: project confidence in communication

The best leaders are not only communicators, but connectors. People look to leaders for reassurance and guidance during times of uncertainty.

Today was a day where I saw good communication and collaboration in action. The country and world are experiencing times of uncertainty with COVID-19. We are seeing conferences and festivals being cancelled, people being quarantined, schools on extended breaks, toiletries flying off shelves, fear growing.

This afternoon the governor of Florida addressed the people. He approached the lectern calm and confident. He was focused and yet somewhat relaxed. He didn’t project fear. After quickly greeting the media, he laid out the facts. Next he described WHY a decision was being made, WHAT the decision was, HOW it would be managed, and WHEN people should expect another update. The governor was realistic about the magnitude of the situation, appeared honest, and made it clear that he would continue to monitor changes and would continue to provide updates.

I believe the governor was able to speak with confidence because he surrounded himself with people (experts) he trusted. The best leaders surround themselves with people they can trust to tell them the truth and who are given opportunities to share their expertise when called upon. There was a question asked during the briefing today and the governor was honest. He said he didn’t have all the answers – but instead of brushing off the question – he invited one of his trusted expert advisors to speak to the question.

Tip 3: Be decisive and accept change

During times of uncertainty, leaders are called upon to make hard decisions and sometimes it means making decisions swiftly even knowing the decision won’t be favorable to many impacted by the decision. Leaders are called upon to take action.

This past week major corporations cancelled large conferences – some that generate a lot of money and also forge new sales and product innovations. I was scheduled to attend a biannual leadership conference. People from over 100 countries attend this event. The leader had to make a difficult decision to cancel the event. This was not really a financial decision (although the financial decision will have large impact), it was a people decision. The leader put the interests and safety of the people above the interests of the transaction. This decision had to be coordinated quickly and was successful because the leader had key people he entrusted to research the situation, provide recommendations, and outlined logistics for how to still serve an excellent experience virtually. Not an easy task. The situation is still fresh and new – but is being communicated well because the leaders know how to connect with the people, and they acted swiftly despite difficult decisions, and accepted that change was necessary.

Tip 4: surround yourself with a strong team, open your network, and be willing to collaborate in order to control chaos

In 2009 I lived in a community severely impacted by a federally declared disaster (flood). The local government had to work with state and federal entities as well as nonprofit organizations and of course the residents. The situation was handled terribly. The local leaders could not control the situation. Residents were without electricity and water, were not getting answers for weeks, while trying to live in unlivable conditions. The “leaders” would share info haphazardly and without confidence. Information shared by local authorities conflicted with information shared by federal organizations. This incident happened over 10 years ago and is still lingering. This crisis happened amidst the mortgage crisis and many people lost their homes or didn’t get even a fraction of the value before the floods. In many ways the aftermath was worse than the flood.

Collaboration was clearly not the focus for some of the most critical days of the disaster. I recall one day Red Cross vans drove into the subdivision passing out hot meals. We didn’t have anywhere to sit because we were surrounded by sewage and mud – and they didn’t have utensils to eat the food. Later we saw hundreds of meals dumped into the trash that went uneaten. The effort was generous but not well thought out. There was little communication and collaboration. Another example: We received dozens of shovels – none of which were needed. We needed brooms and dumpsters which became very hard to get.

A similar scenario happened the last few years during the devastating hurricanes in Puerto Rico. They eventually found hundreds of pallets of bottled water that had been delivered and put in an abandoned airstrip. The water sat for months in the heat and ultimately deemed undrinkable. Yet for months – residents suffered lacking clean safe drinking water. There was a lack of communication and collaboration.

Tip 5: Build resilience and be willing to move forward

Resilience will help you rise above whatever you experience when you ultimately get through to the other side of the valley. Standing still doesn’t make the crisis go away. Leaders lead which means taking action and moving forward. I’ve been reading a book called Nehemiah recently which is a historical memoir of a man who had to make a very challenging decision during a serious crisis. He was experiencing many obstacles – but knew that change would not happen if he stood still – or worse moved backwards. He moved forward and constructed very important change that has lasted through the ages.

In recap – it is important as a leader to be prepared, communicate, change, connect, collaborate, and have concern for the followers.

Disruption should not paralyze you.

Since this health crisis is top of mind right now – let’s review a few things you can do to lead yourself, your family, and your coworkers through the uncertainties of this newly declared pandemic:

1. Why are people storing up water and toilet paper? What if you are quarantined for 2 weeks? It does not mean clear the shelves of every bottle of antibacterial – but do be prepared with enough food and supplies if you had to stay in your home.

2. Make sure you also have enough prescription medicine if you are stuck at home. I recall hearing a story of some people stuck in quarantine on one of the cruise ships and they were running out of critical heart and diabetes medications.

3. If your health records are not stored electronically, make sure you have a copy if it’s needed. That being said, a friend of mine works in the ER and said that the hospitals are overrun with people coming in fear and that is causing challenges to triage people who are seriously ill or injured. Unless you are running a fever and have a significant reason to go to the hospital, perhaps try a clinic or your family doctor. There’s reports of overworked hospital staff including one report in Italy right now where hospital staff is working around the clock and even if they are diagnosed with the virus, are being asked to serve the many people in need. If you know a neighbor who works in the hospital – take some time to thank them.

4. Do you have elderly parents or family members? Don’t delay talking with them about who will take care of them and their daily routine or help pay their bills should they become sick. My parents are in their 70’s and I’m concerned for their well-being. I know where their wills are stored, but also know what is needed to take care of them should they fall ill. That brings up the importance of staying away from people who are sick as well as you staying away from elderly people if you are sick. Today the governor stated in Florida that assisted living centers could no longer temporarily accept visitors. Our most vulnerable need us to keep them safe. How do you do that? Eat healthy foods, sleep, try to reduce stress through mindfulness and exercise, and wash your hands properly.

5. Avoid touching your hands to your face. This one is super hard! Did you know that washing your hands with soap is a key way to prevent the spread of the virus? Or that soap is more effective than antibacterial?

What to dig deeper? Here’s a great link with even more resources on how to lead well during a crisis. https://govleaders.org/categories/crisis.htm

Last but not least – to lead well during uncertain times – I encourage you to lean into your faith in God. You cannot control what is outside of your control. But you can put your anxiety or cares upon the creator of the universe.

We cannot control this crisis but we can control how we respond to it. Back to my initial analogy of the captain and the boat. There’s a story in the Bible where Jesus commanded the waves to cease and they obeyed. You may feel like you’re being tossed around in waves. Maybe you feel unsteady. Are you looking at the waves? Or to the One who can calm them. In another story, Jesus invited Peter to step out of the comfort of his boat to walk on the water. When Peter took his eyes off Christ he started to sink and became afraid. Keep your eyes on what’s most important and this storm will eventually pass. Perhaps your faith will become stronger because of it.

Here are some verses that may give you comfort:

9 Powerful Bible Verses When Facing A Crisis

As John Maxwell says, leadership is influence. What type of influence will you have when leading in uncertain times?

I hope you found these tips helpful. If you’re interested in growing your leadership capabilities or interested in coaching, reach out to us at info@schoolofthoughts.net. We have certified and experienced coaches in leadership, human behavior, mindfulness, connecting, solution finding and more.

Know your worth

There’s a old tale that shared a story of a father and a son. The father was growing old and before he died said to his son: “this is a watch your grandfather gave me, and is more than 200 years old.

Before I give it to you, go to the jewelry shop and tell the owner I want to sell it, and see how much he offers you”.

He went, returned, and said, “the watchmaker offered 5 dollars because it’s old”.

He said to his son : “go to the pawn shop”.

He went, came back, and said: “He offered $5 father”.

“Go to the museum and show that watch”.

He went then came back, and said to his father “They offered me a million dollars for this piece”.

The father said: “I wanted to let you know that the right place values you in right way.

Don’t find yourself in the wrong place and get upset, hurt, or angry if you are not valued.

Those that know your value are those who appreciate you, don’t stay in a place where nobody sees your value”.

Know your worth.

Breathe

We don’t take enough time to appreciate breathing.

The person who lives to 80 will take about 672,768,000 breaths in a lifetime.

We all take about 16 breaths per minute. So why not take just a portion of a minute right now and focus on your breathing.

Go ahead. Try it. Breathe slowly in, fill your lungs with air, pause, now release the air slowly. Your body does this unconsciously. But focus on it for just a few more breathes.

TIP: Breathe in count of 8, hold count of 3, breathe out count of 8, pause.

Breathe in – all the way in! Let it out.

pause

Breathe in. Let it out – all the way out!

pause

Notice the movement of your mind as you consciously breathe in. It isn’t just air, it is nourishment and oxygen for your life.

This time as you breathe in – think of something positive and bring it into your being. Breathe out anything that is not positive. Breathing in affirmations has proven to have tremendous positive results in many people.

Try it again.

Breathe in – all the way! Let it out – all the way out!

pause

Breath in. Let it out.

pause

Now that you focused on your breath and breathing, express gratitude…and go back to the busy-ness of your day!

Whenever you remember, try this again! Practicing conscious breathing helps us think more clearly, reduces stress/anxiety, helps you sleep better, and can even relieve pain!

Many common health ailments can be at least somewhat alleviated simply by making a conscious effort to breathe slowly and deeply. These include high blood pressure, migraine headaches, anxiety, stress, chronic pain, depression, asthma

Do you want to learn more about mindfulness, emotional intelligence, search inside yourself, or just explore what coaching may be like?

School of Thoughts has multiple trainers and coaches certified in these techniques. Reach out here for more info.

Leaving a GOOD Footprint at the Northland Fully Alive 5k!

fullalive5k (1)

Get your running (or walking) shoes on for our first-ever Fully Alive 5K!

This is a family-friendly run/walk that starts and ends at Northland’s main building. There’s also a free Kids’ Fun Run beginning at 8:45 am. Bring the whole gang out to celebrate with our community.  It will be a fun time with great friends, food and fitness!

Race Schedule:
6:15-7:00 am: Race Day Registration and Packet Pick-Up
7:30 am: 5K Run/Walk (This is a timed event)
8:45 am: Free Kids’ Run (10 and under)
9:30 am: Awards Presentation

Packet Pick Up:
Pre race packet pick-up will be held at Fleet Feet at 303 E Altamonte Dr, Altamonte Springs on Thursday and Friday from 11:00 am to 6:00pm.
Race Day Registration and Packet Pick-Up from 6:15-7:00 am.

Entry Fee:
Registration before May 1:  $25
Registration race morning:  $30
Kids Fun Run (10 and under):  Free

Awards:
Medals will be presented to the top Male and Female finishers and the TOP THREE in the following age groups: 11 and Under, 12 – 15, 16 – 19, 20 – 29, 30 -39,  40 – 49, 50 – 59, 60 – 69, and 70 and Over.

Paid participants will receive a Fully Alive 5K t-shirt & swag bag. (Those who register after May 3rd are not guaranteed a t-shirt)

All kids need to be registered on race morning and parents or guardians need to sign a waiver.

For safety reasons, in-line skates, skateboards, and bikes will not be allowed in the race.

Thanks to our sponsors Fleet Feet!

Northland will be partnering with S.T.E.P. (Save the Earth Projects) at the Fully Alive 5K with the Leave a GOOD Footprint (TM) gently used shoe program!

S.T.E.P. impacts both local and global communities through several different service projects, including collecting shoes that are sent to vulnerable communities in underdeveloped countries. You can definitely donate your old running shoes but any shoes are welcome!

(any size of paired gently-used shoes are welcome. Please no crocs, flip flops, fuzzy slippers, skates, winter boots. If you are unsure or have questions, you can email info@savetheearthprojects.com or comment in the post on S.T.E.P.’s FB)

You can learn more about the work S.T.E.P. does here: www.facebook.com/savetheearthprojects or www.savetheearthprojects.com

Check out the route map HERE!

‍Don’t know how to start training? Print our couch to 5k training plan HERE

Want to volunteer for the 5k? Sign up to serve HERE

The essence of Pi (3.14 etc)

Pi (π) is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter.Pi is a constant number, meaning that for all circles of any size, Pi will be the same. The diameter of a circle is the distance from edge to edge, measuring straight through the center.

pi

It struck me that a circle has a beginning and an end perhaps, but perhaps there is no beginning or end – it just is. No matter the size of the circle, the ratio of the circle will always be the same.

It got me thinking…

Romans 8:38 says that no height or depth, no power in the sky above or below, no other creation, nothing – can ever separate us from God (that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord). Ephesians 3:18 is a prayer to us that says may we have the power to understand and comprehend the length, width, height, and depth of Christ’s love for us.

In honor of Pi Day, I am going to share each of the 3rd chapter and 14th verses of the New Testament. Maybe you will read this in a whole new way…

  1. (Matthew) Then Jesus appeared asking John to baptize Him. John objected saying it was he that needed to be baptized.
  2. (Mark) Jesus chose 12 men to be with Him and to be sent out into the world to tell God’s message and He gave them authority to banish demons.
  3. (Luke) Soldiers asked Jesus how to live. He said, don’t use force or lies, shakedowns or blackmail to get people to give you money. Be happy with what you earn.
  4. (John) No one person has ever been in the presence of God except for the One person that was sent from Heaven to Earth. Jesus was sent so that we may see Him and believe. He was lifted back up to Heaven with the promise if we believed in Him, we would have eternal life with Him and become in the presence of the Almighty with Him.
  5. (Acts) Peter spoke to a crowd admonishing them that Jesus was holy and good, and yet they chose to disown Him, and selecting a MURDERER to be set free, rather than the Son of God
  6. (Romans) We are all sinners. Not one person lives right. Our tongues pollute the air and litter the land. The message version says “whatever is written in these Scriptures is not what God says about others but to us to whom these Scriptures were addressed in the first place! And it’s clear enough, isn’t it, that we’re sinners, every one of us, in the same sinking boat with everybody else? Our involvement with God’s revelation doesn’t put us right with God. What it does is force us to face our complicity in everyone else’s sin.”
  7. (1 Corinthians) Every builder who builds on a sound foundation with solid materials, whose work still stands, will receive a reward. You are God’s house. Christ is the foundation. Be careful in picking out the building materials so the house will stand and pass storms and inspections.
  8. (2 Corinthians) People’s minds and hearts were veiled (covered) and blinded to the understanding of what the scriptures actually meant to their lives and to their eternity. The veil of misunderstanding comes only through believing in Jesus Christ.
  9. (Galatians) Because of what Jesus Christ did (absorbing all of our sins (all of them) to himself), God’s promise was given to all people (not some, all). Christ died to that by believing in Him and by faith, we could receive the spirit and have eternal life in Heaven.
  10. (Philippians) Press on and run hard to the finish line to get the prize that is yours. God is calling and beckoning us to Heaven through Jesus (and what He did for us).
  11. (Colossians) The most important thing in life is to love each other. Love is what binds us all into unity. Let love guide your life.
  12. (2 Thessalonians) Take special note of anyone who does not obey what is said in this letter. But don’t treat him as an enemy. Sit him down and talk about the problem as someone who cares.
  13. (1 Timothy) Paul shared that he hoped to come to the people soon, but is writing the letter now to ensure the readers would know to live. Although God is a mystery, far exceeding our understanding, a few things are clear: He appeared on Earth in a human body (Jesus), was proved right by the invisible Spirit, was seen by angels. He was proclaimed among all kinds of peoples, believed in all over the world, taken up into heavenly glory.
  14. (2 Timothy) Continue to follow the teaching you are learning and believe what you were taught since you can trust who was teaching you. The written word shows you the way to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. The message version says, “Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us.”
  15. (Titus) Devote yourself into doing good in order to not lead unproductive lives. When you help people in need, your life won’t be empty.
  16. (Hebrews) ERV version says, “We have the honor of sharing in all that Christ has if we continue until the end to have the sure faith we had in the beginning.”
  17. (James) If you are selfish, bitter, envious, or have jealousy in your heart, don’t boast about that and brag about how wise, good and smart you are. That is just a lie. Live well, live wisely, live humbly. It’s the way you live, not the way you talk, that counts.
  18. (1 Peter) Even if you suffer for what is right, you are blessed. Don’t fear threats or be frightened. If with your heart and soul you are doing good, God sees that. The message version says “Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you’re living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy.”
  19. (2 Peter) Look forward to what is coming. Try to be at peace with God. Make every effort to live good. Do your very best to be living at your best in purity and peace.
  20. (1 John) Anyone who doesn’t have love in his heart, has death. If you hate another child of God, you are like a murderer.
  21. (Revelation) This is Jesus’ letter to the
  22. church in Laodicea: “These are the words of (a message from) the Amen,  God’s Yes, the faithful, accurate and true witness of all that was, is, and forevermore shall be, the First of and ruler of God’s creation and all that He made.”

He knows us, inside and out. From beginning to end. From east to west. North to south. The circumference. The Pi. He was, is, and will ever be. We can know Him and be made known by Him. He is knocking…perhaps you are seeking. These are just the 3rd chapters and 14th verses of each book of the New Testament up above. But there is so much depth and wisdom in just 21 total verses. Fix your eyes, open your heart and mind…your life will change. Mine did. I am forever grateful knowing my eternity is secured and promised.

Lord thank you for the continued discernment and illumination. May Your words touch the heart and mind of the person reading this post and may it bring You glory and honor. Thank you for allowing me to be but a simple vessel, a lamp. I am not the light, just the vehicle to shine it. Thank you for grace, loving me, and forgiving me daily. Amen.

You don’t have to have something to start something.

17-year-old founder of Save the Earth Projects wrote this speech to honor Dr. King when she was 12 years old and in the 6th grade. Olivia offers us all advice on how best to honor the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (from the BK Nation @BKNationOrg website):

“You Don’t Need to HAVE Something to START Something.”

This week as we celebrate the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the impact he and his friends had on the civil rights movement, we should think about our responsibilities to those rights. It is our responsibility to be moved to action to continue to make our world a better place to live and to help our fellow citizens. But how?

You don’t need to HAVE something to START something.

What you need is inside of you. It’s your heart, and your thoughts, and your imagination, and your willingness to work to achieve a goal.

I started something because I had lost almost everything in a FEMA disaster when I was only eight years old.

It would have been easy to look at obstacles and what I couldn’t do instead of the opportunities of what I could do.

Obstacles present opportunities.

Obstacles allow you to stop and think of a way to get around them. They help you to think more creatively and come up with a new way of doing things. Your ideas, hopes and dreams are important – so you have to turn “can’t” into “can”, and “no” into “go”.

To get started all you need is an idea and the belief that you “can” start a project or movement and get ready to “go” forward.

This is how I got started with Save the Earth Projects, which I call S.T.E.P.

I played soccer for the YMCA. I knew that there were kids in my town that couldn’t afford to play, and that the Y offered scholarships, but just didn’t have enough money for everyone in need. I also knew that 100,000 kids die every year around the world because they don’t have shoes. I decided to partner with the Y to solve two problems. For every pound of shoes collected from the hundreds of kids that participate at the Y, the Y earned $.50 per pair. Additionally, the thousands of pairs of shoes that were collected were sent around the world to people really in need. Together, we were able to leave a GOOD footprint.

If I had done nothing, we would have nothing.

The more people that find out about S.T.E.P., the more the word spreads. People all around the country have been collecting shoes. In just one year I have now been able to collect about 5500 pair of shoes. That is more than 5000 people who now have a pair of shoes and many organizations have money they didn’t have before. I have been able to talk about S.T.E.P. on the radio, for civic organizations, and for youth conferences.

Remember what I wrote earlier? I didn’t need to have something, to do something. I only needed to know that I could change something that was important to me, even if it was one pair of shoes at a time. It’s really about having an idea and turning that idea into action. Action for good. Not bad.

Mostly I was helping people to learn about something important that they might not have known, that they could change someone’s life, and decrease space in landfills by just donating a pair of unwanted shoes.

I already have future projects planned including S.T.E.P. up to the plate community gardens, and S.T.E.P. up against bullies. I am hoping even some of you will want to join me in either my projects, or creating your OWN Save the Earth Projects. The best thing that I have learned from creating STEP is that I can make a difference.

Many people are still fighting for civil rights around the world from people fighting for basic human rights in South Africa, to women fighting for equal rights in Saudi Arabia, Cambodia and Syria, to people in the USA and Russia fighting for basic rights for same sex marriages and health insurance benefits and more. Civil rights are violated in oppressive societies. When we receive those rights we have a responsibility to exercise them and be thankful for them.

If you see something that is just not right, do something about it. It is about action. Action for good. Not bad.

You CAN make a BIG difference.

Everything I need, to be able to do what I want to do, is inside of me and everything you need is inside of you. Join me and take a stand by making a S.T.E.P. and leave this world better than when you got here.

ABOUT OLIVIA RUSSO-HOOD:

Olivia Russo-Hood is a 17-year-young leader and founder of Save the Earth Projects (S.T.E.P.). S.T.E.P. is a youth social entrepreneurship idea organizing social change. Corporate businesses typically focus on profit and return, whereas social enterprises also measure the returns to society. Olivia joins with peers across the nation in partnership with a variety of organizations as an effort to raise awareness about local, national and global issues, while also maintaining a goal of helping to raise funds for local charities.

Add breadth to the length

“What I’m saying to you this morning, my friends, even if it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, go on out and sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures; sweep streets like Handel and Beethoven composed music; sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry; (Go ahead) sweep streets so well that all the host of heaven and earth will have to pause and say, “Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well.”

If you can’t be a pine on the top of a hill, be a scrub in the valley—but be the best little scrub on the side of the hill,

Be a bush if you can’t be a tree.

If you can’t be a highway just be a trail

If you can’t be the sun be a star;

It isn’t by size that you win or fail—

Be the best of whatever you are.

And when you do this, when you do this, you’ve mastered the length of life. (Yes)

This onward push to the end of self-fulfillment is the end of a person’s life. Now don’t stop here, though. You know, a lot of people get no further in life than the length. They develop their inner powers; they do their jobs well. But do you know, they try to live as if nobody else lives in the world but themselves? (Yes) And they use everybody as mere tools to get to where they’re going. (Yes) They don’t love anybody but themselves. And the only kind of love that they really have for other people is utilitarian love. You know, they just love people that they can use. (Well)

A lot of people never get beyond the first dimension of life. They use other people as mere steps by which they can climb to their goals and their ambitions. These people don’t work out well in life. They may go for awhile, they may think they’re making it all right, but there is a law. (Oh yeah) They call it the law of gravitation in the physical universe, and it works, it’s final, it’s inexorable: whatever goes up can come down. You shall reap what you sow. (Yeah) God has structured the universe that way. (Yeah) And he who goes through life not concerned about others will be a subject, victim of this law.

So I move on and say that it is necessary to add breadth to length. Now the breadth of life is the outward concern for the welfare of others, as I said. (Yeah) And a man has not begun to live until he can rise above the narrow confines of his own individual concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”

-The Honorable Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Lessons of wisdom in carpentry

How firm is your foundation?

Foundations (or earth) are necessary when building something. They are a “foothold””on the earth to support the weight of a structure evenly so that it remains intact.

Things are in constant motion. Have you ever been in a building that is built properly to withstand earthquakes or strong winds and sometimes feel it rocking?

A building will always move when it is built. It can sink, rise, slide, or combine these motions if they are not equally balanced with the foundation they are built on.

Think of it this way, foundations ensure that the load of a building is spread evenly over the ground underneath the building so that the walls won’t separate.

Another purpose of a foundation is to anchor and tie the different parts of the building together so that it does not sink unevenly and crack. The foundation anchoring itself to the building helps prevent structures from moving sideways – especially when the ground is uneven.

You can’t see the foundation. It’s usually covered up by tile or carpet or wood. But it’s purpose regardless if you can see it – is to keep you safe.

Without foundations buildings would fall over.